Today’s post comes from Washington University student Clare Zhang, who studied in Madrid this Spring. Clare shares with us her experience in Granada, where she and her classmates toured the architectural wonders of La Alhambra. To see more posts from Clare, visit her travel blog here.
For me, traveling means immersing yourself in a completely new culture and experiencing a different lifestyle with your own fingers. Each continent, country, and city is rich with its own traditions and has something to offer that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. This weekend, I found the special, one-of-a-kind characteristic of Granada, one of Spain’s shining diamonds. Even though the city is, of course, Spanish and is dominated by Spanish culture, the history of the area gives way to a rich Arabic presence in the famous palace called La Alhambra.
The sight of La Alhambra can’t even be properly expressed using words. The empowering brownish-yellow color of the palace can be seen from almost every point in Granada, as it rests on top of a hill overlooking the rest of the city (something that you would imagine when thinking of a Disney princess movie where Cinderella’s castle sits elevated and surrounded by the local village). The most spectacular view, however, can be seen at El Mirador de San Nicolás, which sits at almost the same elevation directly across from the grandeur of La Alhambra. El Mirador reveals the most breathtaking view at dusk, as the sun sets opposite La Alhambra and strategically placed lights put the entire palace on full display, immortalizing its hundreds of years of existence.
Inside, the flawless geometric designs of the original Arabic builders span every inch and corner of the walls, ceilings, and floors. With the intricacy of the tiny squares and circles that cover literally every inch of the surface, it’s nearly impossible to not be awestruck by the incredible detail and grandeur of the entire place.
Standing there, looking up at the high-reaching ceilings, you can feel the power of the ages that have come and gone decade after decade, century after century. As you walk through the gardens, the blinding white of the little houses and shops below adds to the strength that La Alhambra radiates as you really feel on top of the world.
The mix of cultures doesn’t end here — the Arabic influence is present in everything, especially the food. Street after street, you’ll find little restaurants and shops lined with Arabic designs on blankets, slippers, and really anything that you can imagine buying. Any restaurant that you walk into will have an amazing selection of hummus, chickpeas, and meat glazed in something sweet. We walked into a random restaurant and had what is by far one of the best meals I have had while abroad (including the best Chai that I have ever had). Granada is one of those places where you don’t need a recommendation for where to go eat, almost any Arabic restaurant that you could walk into will be amazing and more than filling.
What I remember most about this beautiful and enchanting place was simply walking around and finding something new on every corner. We visited many sites such as El Catedral, El Sacromonte Gyspy Caves, Los Jardines del Generalife, Palacio de Carlos V, and La Capilla Real (all of which I would highly recommend), but nothing compared to exploring the antique streets of a city filled with history, a lot of which has actually become part of the streets themselves. Granada is not only a place that showcases its rich past as a typical tourist attraction, it is also a place that still embodies the centuries of conquests and reigns of different kingdoms through its people, food, and culture. The entire city feels as if you are walking through time. Nowhere else can you truly feel the cohesion of different cultures like you can in Granada, where Arabic and Spanish cultures have not just coexisted, but have become their own unique culture.
~Clare Zhang, Washington University Olin School of Business, ACCENT Madrid
Did this post inspire you to explore the many wonders of Spain for yourself? Use the ACCENT Program Finder to discover your next great adventure: http://accentintl.com/find-a-program/.